Gov’t starts giving cash aid to small rice retailers
MANILA, Philippines — Market vendor Leah Semilla was very pleased she decided to go early to her small rice retail outlet at Commonwealth Market on Saturday morning.
Because of her promptitude, she became the third small rice retailer to get the P15,000 cash aid the government started distributing over the weekend.
Leah got her share from Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian himself, along with Senior Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban and Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte.
“This is already a big help to me,” Semilla told the Inquirer in Filipino. “I will use it to buy rice to sell and within the price ceiling of P41 to P45, of course.”
Semilla said she was among those who lost money, because of the government’s decision to put a cap on rice prices, but she still considered herself lucky because she did not lose too much, like other rice retailers.
“We just buy in small batches. It’s tricky if you buy it in bulk, and then the price goes down, like what happened with the price cap. You end up losing more,” Semilla said.
She was among the 589 micro rice retailers who were among to receive the cash aid. Of the total, 405 beneficiaries are in Quezon City, 136 in Caloocan City, and 48 in San Juan City.
While the dole began with registered rice retailers, Gatchalian said unregistered rice retailers will also receive P15,000 and sari-sari store owners will get P5,000.
Gatchalian noted that the P15,000 cash assistance may be increased if the government sees the need to augment the support.
“Yes, that’s possible,” he said. “The national government is studying it, along with the Department of Trade and Industry, on how we can augment and extend more help to micro rice retailers.”
He said that while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order (EO) No. 39 is designed to help small consumers, the government also realizes that small retailers should also have their own safety net.
He added that the government would continue to identify other forms of support, but the government was running out of time.
Phillip Sawali, director of Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau of the DTI said the dole should be finished by Sept. 15 because of the ban on public expenditures due to the Oct. 30 elections.
“There’s an election spending ban starting Sept. 15, and we were informed by the [Department of Social Welfare and Development] that we should submit the lists of rice retailers before then so that the pay-out will be finished before the election spending ban takes effect,” Sawali said.
“This is just the beginning,” said Press Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil. “[Mr. Marcos] wants to give [assistance] to all those affected [by the rice price cap].”
Aside from Gatchalian in Quezon City, Garafil said other Cabinet and local government officials also helped in the aid distribution.
Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual was in San Juan City and Mayor Francis Zamora while Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. and Caloocan Rep. Oscar Malapitan were with Mayor Dale Malapitan in Caloocan City.
The president issued EO 39 on Aug. 31, imposing a price ceiling of P41 per kilogram of regular-milled rice and P45 per kg of well-milled rice nationwide due to the “alarming” increase in retail prices.